More than ever before, companies are turning to automation to solve labor shortages. Robotics sales have increased 37% in 2021 compared to the same period last year. While the automotive industry has historically made up the bulk of robotics sales, this is the second year in a row where non-automotive sales have outperformed automotive in the first nine months of the year.
Making the switch to automation can be intimidating, but Jay Judkowitz, VP of product at Otto Motors, shared advice during Mobile Robotics Week about how to successfully implement mobile robots within your company. Judkowitz’s entire talk can be found online. You can register to view the talk here.
Start with a vision of your end goal in mind
Is your goal to fully automate your operation? Or is it to have only a few steps in the process automated? Even if you expect your end goal to come to fruition years into the future, it’s important to keep it in mind while you’re implementing mobile robots.
“If you don’t have success criteria, and you don’t know what your budget is, or you don’t know what your throughput is, or what your ROI payout is,” said Judkowitz. “It’s going to be hard to say whether we helped you. If you start with the end in mind, we’ll design towards that solution.”
Starting with your end goal in mind will help you save time and money later down the line. For example, your end goal might be to fully automate, but you want to begin by automating a few portions of your operation.
Setting up with the end goal in mind means you won’t have to change the way the robots you already have operate later. You’ll simply add more steps to a plan you’ve already begun to implement.
Break the work into phases
You never know what problems are going to arise once you put mobile robots onto the floor and have them begin working. You could learn that some of your employees aren’t happy working around the robots, or that they need more training to work with them successfully.
If you begin by throwing as many robots as you can into your operation, you could find problems arising that shut things down entirely. That’s why it’s important to implement changes in phases, and then give yourself and your employees an adjustment period before implementing more.
“Businesses are made out of people,” said Judkowitz. “Either we’re able to design around their existing patterns of behavior, or maybe it turns out there needs to be some training that you put them through.”
It’s hard to tell which solutions will be best for you when you’re imagining how you want to use mobile robots. Will it be better to have fewer, wider aisles that robots could move through quickly, or to have many, smaller aisles to utilize more space? The answer won’t be the same for every company, so it’s important to utilize simulations of your setup to see how things will play out under different scenarios.
Editor’s Note: This information is summarized from Mobile Robotics Week. You can replay any of the sessions for free here.